When John King, Halee Fischer-Wright and I finished work on Tribal Leadership in 2007, we found that 25% of tribes made constant expressions of “my life sucks.” In the recently released edition of the updated paperback , we added a new chapter that said the percentage of “sucking” appears much higher. Although we haven’t conducted any additional studies across large groups, our work in companies often comes back at closer to 50%.
In the last few days, I’ve been asking influence leaders around the United States what they’re hearing in terms of the national “default future,” a term Steve Zaffron and I use in Three Laws of Performance. (Default future is what people expect, at a gut level, to happen in the future. People naturally take actions consistent with the default future, even if they don’t like what it foretells. So a default future is a mostly unspoken, often unconscious, self-fulfilling prophecy.) What I heard was so strong that I’m terming it “NationSuck.” It appears the conversation in our country has become dominated by “our lives sucks,” and we expect more sucking in the future.
Specifically, I heard that the default future is economic misery, lack of new employment, politicians fighting and eventually coming to a compromise that drives everyone into further despair, temporary numbing of the unpleasantness by stories that distract us like Casey Anthony or Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and a mood that stays bleak for the foreseeable future. One person added “and we can’t even look forward to any good movies coming out.”
NationSuck isn’t fun, but misery loves company. And it appears our country is stuck.
To be clear, there are real problems that exist apart from NationSuck. We do have a deficit problem, and unemployment really is high. But much of what ails us is the self-fulfilling prophecy of NationSuck.
There is something we can do. Leadership, Steve Zaffron and I wrote in Three Laws of Performance, is “making something happen that wasn’t going to happen anyway.” What is going to happen is NationSuck. Anything different from that will require leaders to confront the national funk. As Tom Laundry, the late coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, “a coach is someone who reminds you who you are, even when you forget.” America has forgotten who it is. We need a coach—a leader, actually—to remind us that our DNA is much greater than NationSuck.
Sadly, our politicians appear distracted. Our pundits all look tired. At a time when Paul Krugman looks like an optimist, we need someone to step forward and lead. Will anyone help us out of NationSuck?